The Bichon Frise, commonly known as the Bichon, is a very popular pooch loved for his gentle spirit, cheerful disposition, and affectionate and sensitive yet playful nature. He is a great family dog in that he loves all people he encounters. However, he can be a needy pup in a few ways. The Bichon Frises can struggle with separation anxiety as well as fear aggression, tends to bark a lot, be difficult to housebreak, needs to be bathed often, and can have staining on his coat from excessive tearing. If you have a Bichon, you undoubtedly love him but have found that he can be a lot of work. Taking the time to keep him feeling secure and clean can go a long way in decreasing his neediness and increasing your happiness.
The Root of the Behavior
At just 12-18 pounds, the Bichon is a small sturdy white puff of a breed, often resembling a teddy bear. His coat tends to be hypoallergenic so he is a great choice for those who suffer from pet allergies, and while he loves to play he does not require a lot of exercise to be happy. Personality wise, he does not like to be left alone and can become anxious and destructive when you do leave him. The Bichon is a very sociable dog. He loves to be with others, to snuggle and to play and does not do well when you leave him for long periods of time. He also commands a lot of attention and is known to paw at you if you are not giving him what he feels he needs. He is highly intelligent which translates to easily bored. He also does not train easily, especially without a lot of rewards and praise. Because he is small, the breed can often develop fear aggression towards other animals that are larger than he. When encountering a larger breed, he may snarl and snip at the other animal in an attempt to appear as someone you do not want to mess with. Your Bichon undoubtedly loves to watch out a window but tends to bark at everything and anything that passes his sightline or makes a noise within his earshot.
His desire to protect comes partly from his undying devotion to you and as compensation for his petite size. The Bichon can live up to 15 years, which also means they mature a little bit more slowly than other breeds. This lack of maturity, combined with a bit of an independent and stubborn streak, can make it difficult to housebreak the pup in a timely manner. His breed is notorious for being difficult to house train, so it may take longer cleaning up his accidents than with other breeds. He also has a beautiful white coat that needs to be maintained on a daily basis with brushing and baths as well as weekly grooming. Without the brushing, his coat will become matted and tangled and more easily stained. His soft coat, since it is white and he is a dog, can become dirty quickly. Being dirty is unsightly, unsanitary, and can lead to skin rashes and infections. The Bichon also tends to have eyes that tear often, which can lead to staining if not properly cleaned and cared for in a timely manner.
Encouraging the Behavior
Choosing the Bichon for your home is a great idea if you plan to be home a lot and can spend a good amount of time playing and snuggling with him. Try to take him with you as often as possible, and when you do have to leave him, make sure to supply him with a lot of stimulating toys and perhaps a dog walker to visit him and break up the day. Should he paw at you to command your attention, do not respond by giving him the attention or telling him to go away as both will encourage the behavior. Rather get up and walk away. Work on teaching him to occupy his time with toys while he waits for you to spend time with him. Do not leave him waiting too long, and do not take more than five or ten minutes per session of training as that can overwhelm him. Socializing him with other dogs of all sizes, right from the start, can also decrease the chances of his developing fear aggression. While socializing him, encourage and reward him when he has positive interactions with other pets. A dog trainer can also help you if your Bichon has become more demanding of your time, suffers from separation anxiety, or exhibits fear aggression. To limit his barking, praise him when he is quiet and ignore him when he barks so he associates being quiet as a good thing. You can also limit his reasons for barking by keeping his visual and auditory world quiet with closed shades and background white noise, especially when he has to be left alone. Using a crate as a safe haven is also helpful in limiting his need to protect the home with a bark.
Prior to getting your Bichon, do your research on the proper care of his coat and face. There are many products on the market that can help you with the right brush and shampoo to keep his coat and skin clean and moisturized. Brush him right from the start every other two to three days to limit matting, tangles, and the accumulation of dirt. Bathe him on a bi-weekly to monthly basis but monitor his skin to ensure he is not developing any sensitivity to the baths or bath products. Also, have him groomed by a professional groomer every 4-6 weeks, and keep his coat short and clipped. Having him look like a show dog takes more time and money, so while the short and clipped coat will not have him show ready, he will still be adorable and a bit less maintenance. Housebreaking is essential when owning a pet, and Bichons are known for having accidents. Many trainers recommend crate training your Bichon as well as installing a doggy door so that he has limited chances of having accidents in the home. While training, be prepared to take him out more than once during the night. Having a dog walker to take him out during the day if you are not home is almost a must as well. Be patient and reward him with treats and praise as often as possible. Understand it may take him a little longer than other breeds to master housebreaking and holding his bladder. All dogs' eyes tear, but the Bichon tends to be on the higher end of tearing. Some tearing is caused by allergies and can be handled with medication. You can limit the staining by wiping his eyes often and keeping him clean in general.
Other Solutions and Considerations
The Bichon Frise breed does have some possible health issues that often run in the breed. They tend to inherit a faulty immune system, which can lead to allergies to pollen, fleas, grass, and certain shampoos. These allergies can lead to skin and ear conditions. The Bichon also tends to suffer from cataracts, epilepsy, and dislocation of their kneecaps as well as hip dysplasia, urinary tract infections, and bladder stones. There are never any guarantees when adopting a pet but using a reputable breeder that tests both the male and female for genetic predispositions can limit your chances of adopting an ailing pet. Adopting an adult dog from a rescue or shelter is also a way to know better what you may be getting in your dog. All of the Bishon’s possible ailments can be managed by a veterinarian as well as by proper care and diet.
The Bichon Frise is an adorable small non-sporting breed that resembles a teddy bear, is very sociable and friendly, and does not require much exercise. He can suffer from separation anxiety, demand a lot of attention when you are home, become bored easily, bark, have frequent accidents, and require a lot of grooming. He is definitely higher on the needy scale, but with proper training and coat maintenance he can be a lovely addition to your home. Using a reputable breeder, and enlisting the help of a friendly and knowledgeable groomer as well as a trainer can go a long way in finding a good fit in your home.
By a Black Lab lover Zoe Byer
Published: 04/17/2018, edited: 01/30/2020